Thursday, May 3, 2012

Food drops are underway - let's support the Franklin Institute

Over the weekend, as soon as it was apparent that Dad was missing, the Franklin Institute sought advice from wildlife experts, and it was clear that some kind of food drop would be the only way for the formel to sustain herself as the primary/only hunter and to get enough food for the ever-hungry eyasses. 

Last year in New York City, the Riverside Park hawk nest on the Upper West Side suffered a similar disaster when they lost their tiercel soon after the eggs hatched.  Because there was no camera on this nest, it did not receive much publicity, but food drops of dead mice and rats on the ground near the nest sustained the formel, and she raised her eyasses successfully to fledging.  Here's a link to the Riverside Park hawks  The Riverside people reached out to us as soon as they heard the news, and it was so encouraging to know that it might be possible to help save the FI eyasses.

It made sense to put the food drops on the ledge beside the nest.  The FI had already configured that window for access to the nest in case of emergency, and the ledge is an easy place for mom to see and reach the food.  Small mice were put out there initially on Monday, but she showed no interest in them, and continued to bring her own prey to the nest.  

So early Tuesday morning, the mice were removed and a large white rat was left out on the ledge. It was cut open slightly, and this piqued her interest. When she brought in her own rat for lunch she definitely eyed up the ledge offering.

The eyasses popped up like jack-in-the-boxes when they realized it was mealtime...

... and after eating, they collapsed into their customary food coma.

Almost immediately, mom flew back in with fresh greenery, covered them up, and headed out on another hunting run.

When she returned, instead of landing on the nest, she settled on the ledge, and that's when it looked as if the food drops were going to work.

Much to the hawkcam watchers' surprise (unaware of the food drop), she bounced in with a bright, white rat!  The eyasses looked equally astonished...

... but quickly realized that white rat tastes just as yummy as brown rat.

As soon as she left the nest at dawn this morning (Wednesday), a squirrel was put out on the ledge.  She must have been perched nearby watching as she almost immediately flew back, hauled it into the nest...

... and began feeding the eyasses.

When they were sated, she ate from the squirrel herself...

... and then for very first time since dad went missing, I saw her finally relax a little, sitting down beside the sleeping eyasses instead of zooming out on another hunting run.

When she eventually left, the squirrel looked..... less.

After the roller-coaster of sadness at losing dad, anxiety for the well-being of the eyasses, and stress at seeing how hard mom was working as sole provider and guardian for her eyasses, it is simply wonderful to know that the Franklin Institute has figured out how to help her, and is committed to providing the food drops necessary for the survival of this hawk family.

Many hawk watchers have asked how they can contribute to this effort, and how they can show their appreciation to the Franklin Institute, not only for their immediate response to this emergency, but also for the four years of the hawkcam and maintenance of the nest that has allowed us to share the journey with these two remarkable hawks and their twelve offspring.

I contacted Andria Ayer in the Franklin Institute Development Department to find answers to these questions and she sent me this helpful information:

"Please know that all contributions to the Institute’s Annual Fund in honor of the hawks, or in memory of the tiercel will be directed to the care and feeding of the hawks (as human intervention is deemed appropriate), maintenance of the hawkcam, and related activities and staff assistance. Any funds raised beyond the needs of the hawks will be channeled into ongoing science and technology education initiatives, which include environmental programs, online curriculum, community outreach, and much more.

To donate in support of the hawks, please visit this Annual Fund link and, when prompted, either write a note in the comment section regarding the intention of the gift, or select the in honor of/in memory of option. Donations can also be made by credit card over the phone by calling Andria Ayer at (215) 448-1339 or Daniel Chermak at (215) 448-1130, or by sending a check to The Franklin Institute, c/o Development Department, 222 North 20th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103. If you are sending a check, please be sure to note in the memo section that the gift is intended to support the hawks.

All gifts to the Institute in support of the hawks will be recognized in a special section of the Institute’s 2012 Annual Report. Please note if you would prefer your gift to remain anonymous."   -- Andria Ayer

So let's give what we can in honor of our tiercel - Dad, and in appreciation of the Franklin Institute.

 To misquote Chaucer slightly "He was a truly perfect, gentle hawk."

      Kay Meng


  1. Thank you for this update.
    Knowing that the FI folks and all concerned
    are helping and the Formel understands and
    is using the donated food eases some the
    heartfelt sadness of losing the Tiercel and
    not knowing what happened to him.

  2. Thank you for this news. What a relief ! I've been so sad about the loss of the tiercel. I was sadder about losing this hawk than Dick Clark and I loved Dick Clark ! To all the Franklin Institute staff that's helping out this little rock !


  3. Even in our sadness, Della, you still write a beautiful and interesting column. I like that it si focused on LIFE. And thanks for the info about FI donations.

  4. Anyone else notice mom has been gone for about 3 hours.

  5. Oops, she's back I was getting worried. She just came back.

  6. I also appreciate this update. I am with everyone here...this one hit me hard. I shed many tears for him. I am so glad that the FI is stepping in to help mom get these babies launched.

  7. Thank you for your sensitive, loving updates. You are a good writer and a good soul.

  8. Michelle, Colorado Springs, COMay 3, 2012 at 8:12 PM

    Thanks so much for all of the info, good and bad, that you have been providing to us. I finally saw Mom tonight on the nest with the kids and it was just wonderful to see her as I had not seen her since the tragic accident except for in your posts. Again, thanks so much and lots of prayers for Mom and the babies. :)

  9. Thought you guys might be interested: University of Wisconsin-Madison put a cam on a pair of nesting red-tails in one of their buildings:

  10. Thanks for the info re: Univ of Wisconsin. If somehow this nest does not continue at Franklin Institute I'd love to organize a webcam to be set up at the Hospital of University of Penn. We have had a successful red tail pair nesting there for at least 7 (?) years now. I realize what good luck they've had being that they are in the same hazardous, urban environment.


  11. Temple has a cam on their RT nest. (Forgive me if somebody already posted it...)

  12. Kay, I meant to say earlier, that is a wonderful photograph, showing the best of Dad in his home.